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September 19, 2008


Jeff Albert

Yarrgh! I be sailin' intar this port ever night and nought but drygoods, books, and flotsam do I gaff, then waste the tide following Cap'n Paulson, who be the greatest pirate in history. When I come back to find chests of gold, emptied, the ship o' time sailed and nought but whale tracks for an honeft pyrite. "Fools gold" say I, "and watered Rum to boot!" An' all thif tyme, I be using Master Johnson as as a bilge pump only. Yarr!

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Unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many pirate crews operated as limited democracies. Pirate communities were some of the first to instate a system of checks and balances similar to the one used by the present-day United States and many other countries. The first record of such a government aboard a pirate sloop dates to the 1600s, a full century before the United States' and France's adoption of democracy in 1789, or Spain's move to democracy in 1812.Both the captain and the quartermaster were elected by the crew; they, in turn, appointed the other ship's officers. The captain of a pirate ship was often a fierce fighter in whom the men could place their trust, rather than a more traditional authority figure sanctioned by an elite. However, when not in battle, the quartermaster usually had the real authority. Many groups of pirates shared in whatever they seized; pirates injured in battle might be afforded special compensation similar to medical or disability insurance.

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